Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

THE ROXBURY SHOOTING OF A CHILD BRINGS PRESSURES AND ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT HER “GANG-AFFILIATED” FATHER

There still remains a bit of confusion as to what law enforcement and others need in order to legitimately (under the law) jump to conclusions about…well…you.

Folks seem to know that, in order to convict a criminal defendant, the government must prove that individual guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We have discussed whether or not that is what really happens in the reality of the courts…but that is not the issue for today.

Today, I think we need to address various matters in which proof beyond a reasonable doubt is not necessary to ruin your life.  Sometimes mere suspicion is enough.

For example, let’s turn to a very recent story in the news. The Boston Herald  tells us that various black community leaders are calling on the father of a 2-year-old girl who was shot as she sat in the back seat of his car in Roxbury yesterday to cooperate with investigators who are trying to track down the shooter.

These calls are predicated on the belief that the man is a “known gang kid”.

“I wished we had more cooperation,” police Commissioner William B. Evans said of the little girl’s father, who he said was not cooperating with police.  “The father here is a known gang kid to us who is not telling us the truth of what happened here,..It’s unfortunate.”

Police have already apparently developed a theory as to how the shooting took place. Evans says that it took place at about 4 p.m., when a shooter opened fire on the child’s father while he stood outside of his car. The little girl, who was sitting in the car seat, suffered two non-life-threatening gunshot wounds to her hand and leg. Her father rushed her to Boston Medical Center, where police say she was being treated for her injuries last night.

“No beef between individuals is worth the life of a 2-year-old child,” said the Rev. Jeffrey Brown of Roxbury’s Twelfth Baptist Church. “He’s got to realize that a line has been crossed. His own life and his family’s life and the community’s life … and it’s time for him to step up for his child.”

Brown added that regardless of the father’s apparent gang affiliation, the code of silence shouldn’t apply when it comes to his own flesh and blood.

City Councilor Tito Jackson, who represents the area where the shooting occurred, also urged anyone who may be able to help detectives to call police.

“I think that it is critical that all those who have information about this shooting come forward with that information and ensure that the individual who perpetrated this crime not only against that child but against our community is brought to justice,” Jackson said last night. “All those who saw something, who heard something or who were connected to this need to come forward and ensure the safety of all of the children in our community.”

This shooting is the second in a week that left a child wounded in Boston.

A 9-year-old girl was wounded last Sunday in a “random” shooting at a birthday party at the Alice Heyward Taylor Apartments in Mission Hill.

In both shootings, Evans has asked for the public’s help in identifying the shooter.

“We will never allow this type of violence to take over our community,” Jackson said. “We will never allow for it to be OK for a 2-year-old to be shot in our community.”

Attorney Sam’s Take On Presumptions, Assumptions And You

The shooting of any innocent child is a terrible thing. I would go further to say that the shooting of anyone, particularly an innocent child, is a horrible thing.

The horror of such a situation is, however, but one of the many perspectives involved in a case like this.

While the police may not be releasing the name of the father at issue, it would appear that, on the street, his identity is known.

The police authorities have clearly indicated a belief that they have more than some idea as to how this “beef” and shooting came about. What this belief is, and upon what it is based, remains unknown. However, that belief, whether right or wrong, is now hanging over the father’s head in a dangerous way.

There is no indication what kind of investigation has taken place and, obviously, no tribunal has been set up to officially accuse or show what his history is and what he knows.

Clearly, the idea cannot be that, simply, once a child is shot in any drive by shooting, the parent must always be assumed to be aware of who the shooter is and why the shot was placed. Further, as the father may have been the intended victim, the police have never taken the position that all shooting victims are aware who their attacker is.

“Sam, don’t the police usually suspect that a person knows who tried to kill them?”

Often. So, they investigate. Not outright accuse and place the burden on that intended person to either supply answers (known or suspected) to either come up with a name…or face the wrath of the community.

And isn’t that an interesting point?

Let’s say that, in order to relieve such pressure, said victim, or parent, revealed a name.

Exactly how reliable would that revelation be?

We’ll return to this topic in my next blog. Tomorrow.

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